Seven Select Japanese Castle Towns that Retain Beautiful Townscapes from the Past
Jokamachi (castle towns) are a form of cities that developed during Japan's Sengoku (warring states) Period that lasted from the 15th to 16th centuries. They became the basis for many of today's major cities. Here are five castle towns around the country that still retain townscapes that evoke the past.
This is a castle town that was built around Matsumoto Castle, a national treasure in Nagano. It has many streets and districts including Nakamachi Street, which is lined with warehouses with Namako walls (exterior walls made with plaster and tiles) and Nawate Street, which has nearly fifty shops that sell a variety of products including antiques and sweets.
Shiomi Nawate is a 500m-long street running along the moat of Matsue Castle in Shimane that is designated a traditional aesthetic zone. Many feudal retainers once lived along this street, and many of the houses that remain today are in the style of a bukeyashiki (a warrior's residence). It is famous for the former residence of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), an English writer born in Greece who loved Japan and became a Japanese citizen. Old pine trees that remind one of the past, the river surrounding the castle, and the boats on the river create a scenery with great atmosphere.
There are two famous streets in the area around Tsuwano Castle in Shimane. One is Tonomachi Street, with Namako walls of the Bukeyashiki warriors' residences, cobblestone roads, roadside canals with carp, and numerous historic sites all of which combine to give it a great historic atmosphere. The other is Honmachi Street, which is lined with souvenir shops, sweets stores, and historic warehouses.
Tsuwano (Castle Town to the Tsuwano Domain's Tsuwano Castle)
This is a castle town located outside the outer moat of what used to be Hagi Castle in Yamaguchi. The streets are built on a grid, and there are Bukeyashiki warriors' residences and old merchant houses that retain vestiges of the past. The beautiful landscape with contrasts created by white walls, Namako walls, and black walls is worth seeing. There are many shops you'll want to stop by in, such as cafes and souvenir shops in renovated old houses.
The castle town around Kakunodate Castle in Akita was built in 1620. An area known as Bukeyashiki-dori is designated as a Group of Traditional Buildings by the Japanese government. The town spreads north to south with a hiyoke (fire prevention) plaza made by piling dirt up in the middle, an area with Bukeyashiki warriors' residences in the north, and an area where the townspeople and merchants lived in the south.
Saikachi-koji to the south of Odawara Castle in Kanagawa is a lane where there once were many Bukeyashiki warriors' residences. It is the perfect area to take a relaxing stroll in which is famous for the tunnel of cherry blossoms that bloom in the spring. There are also many places to visit, including the Odawara Bungakukan, where you can learn about the life and works of famous writers who resided in Odawara.
This is a castle town that is still carefully protected today around what used to be Matsusaka Castle in Mie. The Castle Guard Residences constitute the center of the town, around which there are many shops such as rustic sweets shops that evoke the past, historic restaurants and cafes in renovated old houses. A leisurely stroll around the beautiful cobblestone streets is recommended.
Matsusaka (Castle Town for the Matsusaka Domain's Matsusaka Castle)
Jokamachi (castle towns) are places where you can walk around enjoying the atmosphere of a historic town. Please discover these charming towns!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.